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MAIN Arrow to Home LifeHome Life Arrow to GardeningGardening Arrow to Bonsai Gardening BonsaiBonsai tree

Bonsai (literally "tree in a pot") is a living thing — so it may be the hobby you never quite finish!

Pronounced bon-sigh, the ancient practice of training trees to grow in small pots is today most associated with Japan.

However, a quick glance at the history of bonsai reveals that it was actually the Chinese who originated the technique -- which they called penjing -- to first introduce the world to the miniature landscapes that we know as bonsai.

Today, centuries-old techniques are still used to dwarf tender, growing trees to make them appear aged or wind-swept by pruning and shaping branches and roots.

Careful rooting and potting techniques control growth, and metal wires are traditionally employed to give a growing bonsai tree its characteristic gnarled or twisted appearance.

In addition to training dwarf trees to grow upright, two other major styles of bonsai include cascade and forest style.

forest style bonsai
Dwarf trees are planted
in groups to create
forest style bonsai.
cascade style bonsai
A juniper tree trained to
grow downward as a
cascade style bonsai.
bonsai root structure
Careful attention is also
given to shaping roots,
which are overlayed with
moss to imitate grass.

Bonsai fun facts

• The word “bonsai” is made up of the two Japanese characters: “bon” meaning tray and “sai” meaning plant, which when literally translated means: tray plant.

• Wire of copper or aluminum is traditionally used in place of steel wire to shape bonsai as they are more malleable and not as apt to rust over time.

• In 1976 the people of Japan presented more than 50 bonsai trees as a gift to the US in honor of its 200th birthday. The trees are now housed at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, located at the U.S. National Arboretum, in Washington, D.C. Today, it comprises one of the largest collections of bonsai in the world.

More about how to grow bonsai around the Web:

Around the Web, learn how to grow your own miniature bonsai via online tours, tips and tricks, photo galleries and feature articles in our online guide for the bonsai-obsessed...

Bonsai on the Web - Expansive, searchable databases of related sites, nurseries and suppliers, feature articles, plus a chatroom, mail list and calendar of events. - Check out a great intro to the age-old art form with facts on their history and care, along with a brief overview of basic upright, slanting and cascade styles, bonsai maintenance, advanced techniques, suggested books, related tools, supplies and more.

Bonsai4Me - This popular UK site is an excellent insider's guide to growing, feeding, and caring for your pet bonsai with basic and advanced techniques, species guide, feature articles, a gallery of images and an opportunity to watch 'em grow via progression photos.

American Bonsai Society - Browse for informational articles by members, photo galleries of show competitions and event highlights, information on how to enroll in their mentor-monitored correspondence course, group forum, event calendar, related links & references.

Arnold Aboretum - Harvard University - Learn more about the collection via a mini-virtual tour that includes a brief history, suggested reading and a tutorial on bonsai care.

Shohin-Bonsai Europe - From author and Shohin-bonsai master Morton Albek, this site features inspirational articles & pictures, links to related sites & associations, workshop schedule, blog.


Many thanks to Ryan Walsh for writing to us with helpful comments and
suggestions for some of the bonsai resources featured on this page.


also see --> Houseplants | Lucky Bamboo | Growing Orchids

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